The Revolution in American Breakfast

14 Aug 2017

Today, the typical American grocery store might devote an entire aisle to breakfast cereal, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, boxed cereals were an invention of the 20th century, designed and marketed by two brothers from Michigan.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg had first conceived of a healthy, plant-based breakfast in his capacity as the director of the Battle Creek sanatorium, Mich. His younger brother, Will, was the business innovator, who figured out how to market John’s creation.

The mass production of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in 1906 was a revolution in American breakfast.” You can simply pour breakfast out of a box. Even dad can make breakfast now,” was said in ads.

 American breakfast before the days of boxed cereal

If you look at what people ate in America in the late 19th century or even the early 20th century, it was very heavy in animal fats, often cured meats. So they’re very salty, a lot of sugar. You would have for breakfast potatoes that were fried in the congealed fat from the night before. A lot of alcohol and caffeine were consumed, a lot of carbohydrates.

And making breakfast was a real ordeal. Even if you made porridge or mush, these whole grains took hours to melt down and make into a mush or a soft form. So poor mothers had to get up very early.

John Harvey Kellogg invented cereal for the invalid people. But his little brother Will realized there are a lot more people who are healthy and just want a convenient, tasty breakfast, not only those who are ill and need an easily digestible breakfast.

How the flake cereal was born.

The brothers first started serving double-baked zwieback biscuits out of whole graham grain. Dr. Kellogg decided to grind up the zwieback into little crumbs, and that was their first cereal. He called it granola (a kind of cereal resembling muesli).

But Dr. Kellogg and his brother weren’t happy with that. And they thought, there’s got to be a better way to make cereal than just grinding up toasted bread, basically. So they worked and worked till they found what they wanted.

But despite their business success, the brothers’ relationship was contentious. A series of lawsuits ended with the Will being awarded the rights to the family name.

In early 1920, John Harvey started making his own cereal calling it “Kellogg’s”.


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